At the same time, we have never seen a single game of football mean so much in terms of importance and relevance as the NFC Championship game will mean tomorrow to the city of New Orleans.
All in all, I'm pretty sure that my Sunday is set.
Here's my outlook on the games:
- New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts (RCA Dome, Indy)
- The Belichick/Brady factor is strong, but at a certain point every dynasty has a moment in which it is completely and utterly distroyed, normally at the hands of a rival. The 49ers saw the Cowboys take over their glory. USC helplessly watched Texas storm down the field and win a championship. The Yankees had to bear the pain of watching a bloop single by Luis Gonzalez end their run. For New England, tomorrow may well be the beginning of the end.
- On paper, the Colts are a better team. At the same time, so were the Chargers. But to be clear, Tony Dungy is no Marty Scohttenheimer.
- Speaking of Tony Dungy, I have heard a lot of talk about how the pressure is on him for never being able to "win the big one". He has always had a Schottenheimer like label: great in the fall, horrendous in the winter when it matters. Heck, Jon Gruden took his exact team to the Super Bowl and dismantled the Raiders back in '02. This couldn't be any more of a fallacy: Dungy has always put his team in a position to win, but has lacked a monumental victory or a watershed play from a playmaker. Last I checked, he can't throw the ball or make a tackle. In the end, it comes down to the players. After all, wasn't it about a year ago when we were saying Bill Cowher couldn't win "the big one"?
- Peyton Manning's potential fate hangs in the balance of this game. Hands down. Anyone who thinks otherwise is foolish. He has his team in the best position to not only knock of a rival in Brady, but also to shed the label that he can't win in the postseason. He has down everything there is to do, except for this.
- The Colts D looked unreal against the Ravens underrated offense last week, whereas the Pats looked weak against San Diego's non-LT threats. I mean, Vincent Jackson coming up big with deep passes? Not a good sign. The run D of Indy is peaking at the right time, and Bob Sanders has an awful lot to do with it.
- As a diehard Yankee fan, I admit that mystique and Aura definitely give the Pats an advantage, but it's not mistake that Indy beat the Patriots the past two times the met (including a match-up in Foxboro).
- As if that wasn't enough, here's two words: Adam Vinatieri.
Pick: Colts 27, Patriots 21 (for the record, I'm rooting for New England)
2. New Orleans Saints @ Chicago Bears (Soldier Field, Chicago)
- The Bears have two big things going for them: home field advantage and a killer defense.
- Personally, I feel that the Bears have done everything in their power to squander having both of these factors as a positive for them. The Bears have looked shoddy at home, after barely squeaking by a less-than-deserving Seahawks team last week. They were not the same dominant squad we saw in October. I mean, Brett Favre made them look bad on New Year's Eve. Brett Favre! Imagine what Drew Brees will do.
- As for the home field, Soldier Field may be their only positive. But with an offense that is as inexplicable as Chris Simmons' dance moves and a QB that makes Eli look Peyton, it's hard to go with them.
- The Katrina subplot is a lot stronger than people think; to me, the Saints embody the region in every aspect. No one ever gave them a ton of credit, they are perrenial losers, but they believe in each other. Come playoff time, that's really all that matters.
- The dual tandem of Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister are quickly becoming the best Tag Team since.. well. Tag Team.
- Two words: Red Grossman
Pick: New Orleans 31, Chicago 17
Back for a recap later this week..